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David Murray Milford Graves: Real Deal

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It’s a measure of how much the jazz spectrum has shifted in the past 20 years that David Murray has been pushed to the center by avant garde militants, for whom notes are pass and grooves are heresies.

Yet, regardless of his ever diversifying interests, the prodigious tenor saxophonist/bass clarinetist has amassed a compelling discography of avantist accomplishment, to which Real Deal and Solo Live make notable contributions.

Recorded in 1980, Solo Live finds Murray at a turning point. The occasional suspect technique of his earliest efforts is no longer at issue on torrential tenor solos like “Both Feet on the Ground” and space-sensitive bass clarinet pieces like “B. C.” With assertive interpretations of “Body and Soul” and “We See,” and originals like the buoyant “Rag Tag” (a close relation to his “Bechet’s Bounce”), Murray staked out his own claim on the emergent loft jazz-(pre-Wynton) neo classicist nexus. Consequently, Solo Live passes the test of time with surprising ease.

Murray’s ’91 duo program with legendary percussionist Milford Graves flows effortlessly from beginning to end. The music continually simmers without boiling over, and retains focus without overt thematic guideposts. Graves is at once a commanding presence and a generous collaborator; using an even attack, building his statements primarily with drums, employing minimal cymbal accents, and slipping subtle asymmetries into his crossrhythms, he draws an ancient voice from that thoroughly 20th century feat of engineering, the trap set. Murray more than rises to the task, playing beyond his usual high standards. It was not hype to call this album Real Deal.